To wear, or not to wear? Businesses decide whether to continue requiring masks

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WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — Monday, 17th Street Surf Shop manager, Will McEachern folded up a poster he’d displayed for months. It read, “Be safe. 17th Street requires masks.”

“Hopefully it will never have to come out again,” McEachern smiled as he put the poster away.

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As of Monday morning, 17th Street rolled back mask requirements for vaccinated customers and staff, though social distancing measures will still be in place.

“I mean, with only I guess maybe slightly more than 50 percent of North Carolinians vaccinated, I think it’s definitely good to be cautious,” McEachern said. “Practice safe social distancing, thorough washing of hands, hand sanitizer.”

It’s a choice businesses were presented with Friday, after Governor Cooper took away the mask mandate, maximum capacity and social distancing requirements. After taking the weekend to decide, many are thrilled to have a say.

“It’s wonderful,” New River Pottery owner, Rick Mitchell said. “And we all did for a long time what was required, we wore the mask as we were requested to do. But it does feel real good not to have them on.”

According to Mitchell, employees who have been vaccinated will be allowed to go maskless and will not have to social distance. Mitchell says he knows the employees who have not been vaccinated. They are required to mask up.

“As far as customers are concerned,” said Mitchell, “it’s on the honors system. We just have to trust that the customers are doing what’s right.”

Customers were able to shop maskless at New River starting Saturday. This week, about half the shoppers seemed to take advantage of the return to normalcy.

“Oh we feel safe with it. With all the data and everything,” said one man after a Monday morning shopping trip.

“We’ve both been vaccinated. And so we feel really comfortable,” his wife said.

These changes come just before Memorial Day. McEachern hopes the relaxed measures will mean financial recovery for small businesses in the area.

“Probably will have lots of vacationers and people trying to get to the beach for the weekend. So hopefully it will be a good summer and we can all stay safe.”

Masks are still required on public transportation, in schools, childcare, prisons, homeless shelters, and certain public health settings.

Private businesses have the right to require masks to enter.